From Annette To Bieber: Teen Idols Then And Now

Teenage stars, from Annette Funicello to Justin Bieber. What is their role in, for, society?

 This 1955 file photo provided by Walt Disney Co., shows Annette Funicello, a "Mouseketeer" on Walt Disney's TV series the "Mickey Mouse Club." (AP/Disney) Canadian singer Justin Bieber performs on stage during the "I Believe Tour " in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, March 31, 2013. (AP)

This 1955 file photo provided by Walt Disney Co., shows Annette Funicello, a “Mouseketeer” on Walt Disney’s TV series the “Mickey Mouse Club.” (AP/Disney) Canadian singer Justin Bieber performs on stage during the “I Believe Tour ” in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, March 31, 2013. (AP)

Annette Funicello died this week at 70.  She was twelve years old when Walt Disney made her a Mickey Mouse Club star.  So squeaky clean she didn’t show her belly button when it came to Beach Blanket Bingo.

Not so for the latest generation of onetime Disney stars.  Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens break out hot and rough in Spring Breakers.  From Shirley Temple to Funicello to Lindsey Lohan to Justin Bieber, there’s a pattern in what we want and what we get in child stars, teen stars.

This hour, On Point:  the role and the arc of the very young in stardom.

-Tom Ashbrook


Jane O’Connor, senior lecturer and research fellow in Childhood and Family Studies at the University of Wolverhampton. Author of “The Cultural Significance of the Child Star.”

Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.

From Tom’s Reading List

CNN “Annette Funicello, one of the best-known members of the original 1950s ‘Mickey Mouse Club’ and a star of numerous 1960s ‘beach party’ films, died Monday at a California hospital, the Walt Disney Co. said. Funicello, who was 70, ‘died peacefully from complications due to multiple sclerosis, a disease she battled for over 25 years,’ the Disney statement said.”‘

Washington Post “Despite the films’ mildly naughty titles, Ms. Funicello’s clean-cut reputation remained intact. ‘Go ahead and have fun — the good, clean fun,’ Ms. Funicello recalled Disney saying. ‘But I have one request. I know everyone will be bikini-clad. I’d like you to look different. Would you wear a one-piece suit, or if it’s a two-piece, please don’t expose your navel.'”

USA Today “In a note on her Facebook page, Jada Pinkett Smith is sticking up for Justin Bieber and Quvenzhane Wallis, and any other young star in the media today. She writes: ‘How can we ask for our young stars to have a high level of responsibility if we are not demonstrating that same level of responsibility towards them?'”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Oct 7, 2015
The Doctors Without Borders trauma center is seen in flames, after explosions near their hospital in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz. Doctors Without Borders announced that the death toll from the bombing of the group's Kunduz hospital compound has risen to at least 16, including 3 children and that tens are missing after the explosions that may have been caused by a U.S. airstrike.  (AP)

The US airstrike on the hospital in Kunduz. The top US commander in Afghanistan faces tough questions from Congress. We’re looking for what really happened.

Oct 7, 2015
Students in the new documentary film "Beyond Measure" take part in a project-based learning activity with their peers. (Courtesy the Filmmakers)

Arne Duncan’s headed out as U.S. Education Secretary. What’s next for America’s school kids?

Oct 6, 2015
In this Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, photo, Dorothy McIntosh Shuemake, mother of Alison Shuemake, browses a picture collage of her daughter at her home, in Middletown, Ohio. Alison Shuemake, 18, died Aug. 26, after a suspected heroin overdose. (AP)

American addiction. From prescription painkillers to heroin. The numbers are staggering. Why?

Oct 6, 2015
Eric Baker, co-owner of the Mo Money Pawn Shop, poses for a photo at the shop Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015, in Phoenix.  (AP)

American gun policy front and center in the 2016 campaigns after the shootings in Oregon. We’ll look at who stands where on guns.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Rep. Daniel Webster: ‘I’m Gonna Sell This Message’
Tuesday, Oct 6, 2015

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his retirement and resignation from his position last month, it surprised both his Party and the Washington political establishment. Now, with the House set to vote on a new Speaker on Oct. 25, three would-be party leaders are stepping in to make their case. U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster […]

More »
Our Week In The Web: October 2, 2015
Friday, Oct 2, 2015

We say hello again to our email address (since so many of you did this week) and goodbye to the Log Lady.

More »
Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders: ‘Count Me As A Radical’
Thursday, Oct 1, 2015

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is making waves in the 2016 Presidential race, and he joined us today from the US Capitol to explain how his campaign message is connecting with voters around the country.

More »